Which Wood Should I Use When Building Shelves?

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What kind of wood should I use when building shelves? There are a lot of considerations that go into this question. What is the purpose of your shelf? How much weight will it be holding up? In this blog post, we’ll take a look at different types of wood and which type would best suit your needs.

As a whole, plywood is the best budget choice for building shelves of almost any kind. Plywood is very strong and it is quite easy to work with. If you want to use something with a little better quality to it then Mahagony is a great choice but it is also a lot more expensive. So you are paying for that little extra quality.

But let´s take a closer look at both of these choices and let´s also look at some types of wood that you should maybe not use for building a shelf.


Plywood is a good choice for those on a budget. It’s very strong so it won’t buckle under weight, it can be sanded, painted, and it is pretty easy to work with. However, you need to either paint or stain it if you want your shelf to look good because plane Plywood isn´t the prettiest type of wood.

Plywood at a glance:

  • Inexpensive compared to other kinds of wood
  • Strength makes it durable enough to hold large amounts of weight without any issues
  • It can be a little hard to find good looking, even boards
  • Plywood has to be treated and painted in order to look decent

Plywood is my personal favorite when it comes to building shelves, desks, or similar furniture that has to carry a lot of weight.

While it needs a little more work to finish it properly it will pay off as it is cheaper than pretty much any other alternative out there.

I recommend using at least 3/4 – inch plywood. Thinner boards might bend over time.


Mahogany is the best option if you are looking for something that will last for decades, but it comes at a higher price point than plywood or pine. Mahagony is also a quite good-looking type of wood that doesn´t need to be painted or stained to look good.

Mahagony at a glance:

  • One of the best woods to use for building shelves
  • It is very strong, durable, and it will last you a long time
  • It is expensive
  • It might not be available at your local hardware store

Mahagoni is not easy to work with because it is hardwood which will make it almost necessary to work with powered tools.

You don´t need to stain or paint Mahagony if you are a fan of the natural wood look but you should sand and seal it.

Mahagony is quite expensive and not the easiest wood to work with so it might not be the best choice for someone who is new to woodworking.


I see pine as a recommendation for building shelves in a lot of different places and I personally don´t think that it is the best choice for that particular job.

I recommended using Pine to build a bed frame so it might surprise you that I don´t really recommend it for building a shelf but the reason is simply that pine boards tend to bend quite easily especially under a lot of weight.

You can build bed frames in a way that no single pine board has a lot of weight distributed on it in a horizontal manner. So Pine is a really good choice for building a bed frame. Just as plywood would be.

But you would have to build a very interesting-looking shelf in order to achieve the same effect.

So shelves that were built with Pine tend to bend easily and you also have to be careful when using your shelf because pine wood tends to dent and scratch easily.

Hi, I am a passionate maker and professional prop maker for the entertainment industry. I use my woodworking, programming, electronics, and illustration know-how to create interactive props and puzzles for Escape Games and marketing agencies. And I share my knowledge and my experience on this blog with you so that you can become a maker yourself.

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